The first time it happened was in the early 1990s. I had been a daily newspaper writer in Missouri for about ten years, and I was toying with the idea of making a career change. I set up an interview at a school of traditional Chinese medicine in Santa Fe and, before I knew it, I was throwing my bags in the backseat of my VW and heading down the road to New Mexico.
As the miles passed behind me, I thought about how I needed a change in scenery, about how rewarding it would be to help people with a natural system of healing that dates back thousands of years.
The outskirts of Santa Fe were on the horizon, and suddenly the engine light went on, the temperature gauge suddenly pegged to hot, the car sputtered to a stop and I was sitting still on the shoulder of the freeway. I was shocked. The car was in good mechanical shape before I left home, and now, seemingly dead on the highway. Before I could decide what to do next, I heard a voice in my mind as clear as day: “When you cool down, the car will cool down.”
And at that moment, I realized that I had been totally unaware of my body and what it was telling me. Inwardly, I was freaking out about making such a dramatic change in my life. I was boiling over with anxiety. I didn’t really know if this trip was just me grabbing for something…anything…that represented change.
I took the voice’s statement as fact. I worked to calm my inner being. I told myself that no decisions were going to be made today, and that all I needed to do was relax, breathe, and know that everything was okay. And then the car started. The temperature gauge read normal and I was driving into Santa Fe as if nothing had happened. But it did.
Fast-forward to February 2011 when my wife and I were headed east on Interstate 94 from the Twin Cities to Madison to look for a home to rent. I had spent the past month searching on craigslist, but I was unsure if anything would pan out. And beyond that, I was anxious whether the move to Wisconsin was right for us, that my wife truly supported my need for change.
Then the engine light went on. Our hybrid Civic kept running, but we didn’t know if it would die at any moment. I was a bundle of nerves sitting next to my wife, as she drove the wintry highway. We had a blizzard the week before, and the whole trip seemed to be full of doubt.
And then I remembered Santa Fe. I tried to calm myself down. I told myself things would work out — and they did. One of my craigslist leads turned out to be the perfect choice, and the car ran normally all the way home. And all the way home I sat in gratitude to my body for helping me to awaken — and to my car, for communicating to me, in the only way it could.